Tuesday, February 27, 2018

NO, I DON'T BELIEVE DONALD TRUMP STOPPED A MUGGING IN 1991

After the president said he would have rushed into Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School to stop the shooting there even if he was unarmed, a number of media sources noted that Trump hasn't exactly display a lot of heroism in his life. The best roundup is from Eli Rosenberg of The Washington Post, who notes the time Trump told Howard Stern he recoiled from the blood when an elderly Mar-A-Lago guest fell off a stage (an incident also discussed on Lawrence O'Donnell's show last night); Rosenberg also discusses Trump's anxious response when someone rushed the stage during a campaign appearance, his fear of an eagle who was brought into his office for a photo shoot, and, of course, his avoidance of military service during the Vietnam War, among other moments of non-bravery.

Meanwhile, right-wingers are citing this 1991 story from James Rosen of the New York Daily News (not the James Rosen who worked at Fox News -- this one went on to work for McClatchy):



You can click to enlarge or read the text here. Here's an excerpt:
When he saw "a big guy with a big bat" bashing another fellow, Donald Trump did what any self-respecting billionaire would do: He ordered his driver to pull over.

"I'm not looking to play this thing up," Trump said yesterday. "I'm surprised you found out about it."

Witnesses said Trump, with Marla Maples tugging at his arm to try to stop him, leaped from his black stretch limousine Monday evening during the assault on Ninth Ave. near 45th St.

Brutal-looking

"Someone in the car looked over and said, 'Gee, look at that, it's a mugging,'" Trump said. "I said to my driver to stop the car because it was brutal-looking."

Trump was at first reluctant to discuss his daredevil deed, but then he warmed to the task.

"The guy with the bat looked at me, and I said, 'Look, you've gotta stop this. Put down the bat,'" Trump said. "I guess he recognized me because he said, 'Mr. Trump, I didn't do anything wrong.' I said, 'How could you not do anything wrong when you're whacking a guy with a bat?' Then he ran away."
The first thing that leaps out is that even before we're told the details, we're told (a) that Trump is shocked, shocked, that this is going to make the papers, and (b) that he didn't want to brag or anything, but, okay, twist his arm, he'll tell you all about it....

In all likelihood, something vaguely similar to what Trump described actually happened. This was certainly a high-crime period in New York City; a mugging in Hell's Kitchen wouldn't be surprising. The reporter found an eyewitness who was willing to be quoted by name, and she said the incident took place. Unfortunately for Trump, she portrayed him as a tad less heroic than he portrayed himself.
Kathleen Romeo, a 16-year-old student at St. Michael's Academy in Manhattan, said cries of "There's Trump!" went through the crowd of onlookers.

"A lot of people were surprised that he got out to see what was happening," Romeo said, adding that the bat-wielder ran off just before Trump actually appeared and that Trump, "just looked around and went back into his limo."
However, a second witness -- unnamed -- said Trump really was courageous:
But another witness, who asked not to be identified, said, "There was a guy with a bat, hitting a guy over the head, and Trump yelled, 'Put that bat down. What are you doing?' The guy dropped the bat, came over and started talking to him."

Trump said the bat-man delivered at least "five or six good whacks" before Trump interceded.
Was the witness named ? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

Trump was at a financial low point at this time -- and his own mother had been mugged a month earlier. I assume he came upon the incident after the danger had passed. He saw a publicity opportunity, made contact with the press (perhaps using of one of his PR experts, John Miller and John Barron), encouraged one witness to hype his role, and got the good story he wanted. (The New York tabloids considered Trump stories too good to check in that era.)

The story goes on to say the police were never called. A truly upstanding citizen would have given the cops a description of the perpetrator -- especially if, as Trump claims, he was face-to-face with the perp long enough to have a conversation.

The right, of course takes all of this on faith. Here are a few headlines from the past 24 hours.

* The Daily Caller: FLASHBACK: That Time Trump Took Down A Mugger In Action

* RedState: Would Trump Have Rushed In To Stop School Shooter? (Well, He Did Stop A Mugging In ’91)

* Sparta Report: Libs Wrong Again. Trump Would Have “Run In There”

Snopes asks, "Did Donald Trump Stop a Mugging in 1991?" Answer: unproven. I'd say Snopes is being charitable.

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